Wednesday, March 29, 2017

Workplace Ergonomics

The concept of Ergonomics wasn’t something that we often thought about until recent years. Now, more than ever, individuals in the workforce find themselves spending their days working at a desk on their computer. This has led to the growing interest and conversation around Ergonomics and its benefits. Unfortunately, many individuals don’t know what it is or don’t understand how it applies to them, and there are some who don’t necessarily believe in its importance. The goal here is to raise awareness and, hopefully, peak interest in those who could benefit from Ergonomics in their work place.
So, what is Ergonomics? Ergonomics is the process of making your workplace more functional, productive and healthy by positioning yourself in better alignment with the equipment you’re using. What wasn’t widely known for a long time, and in some instances still isn’t – that poor ergonomics in the workplace can lead to an environment of disorganization, frustration, low functionality, and can result in an overall poor work environment. In this scenario, workplace risks are higher than ever, and can lead to many physical issues including, carpal tunnel, tendinitis, and spinal issues. By improving workplace ergonomics, you can effectively reduce, if not remove, the risk factors leading to these injuries, and in turn, kick start the effectiveness and productivity at work. If you’re a business owner, think about if your employees were operating with high functionality, in a happy and healthy work environment. This type of environment is typically seen in companies in the top echelon of competitiveness within the market.
Poor Ergonomics. There are many risk factors to be aware of that promote poor ergonomics, leading to some of the risks mentioned above. Three critical factors that often get overlooked are repetition, poor posture and intense exertions on a task.
·      Repetition – When we think of repetition in the work place, we don’t necessarily think of it as being negative. If we do the same motion repeatedly, our bodies will become accustomed, and we’ll even get better at it. Think of the concept “practice makes perfect”.  While this may be true to some extent, when combined with other risk factors, which it often is, it creates a scenario that can drastically increase the development of a physical injury or ailment. As mentioned before, carpal tunnel is a common injury in those who repeatedly use a keyboard and mouse, as it causes tension and strain in your wrists.
·      Poor Posture – Often, we see people showing poor posture far more than proper posture. This puts quite a deal of stress on our joints, muscles and tendons. If poor posture is sustained for long periods of time, or even becomes chronic, the likelihood of developing a musculoskeletal disorder increases greatly. One such issue on the rise is Lower Cross Syndrome - a muscle imbalance in the lower back and hips, often causing severe low back pain. Combine a repetitive motion with poor posture and its sure to have a negative impact on the body.  
·      Exertion – When we exert an excessive amount of force into our work, it increases the demand on the body’s joints, muscles and tendons. This constant demand increases fatigue and the likelihood for serious injury. This risk could result in decreased mobility, inability to work, etc.
 Improving Ergonomics. The first step to improving your ergonomics is to evaluate your workstation. Whether it’s a typical desk with computer, or whichever spot you can find Wi-Fi on your laptop, there are a few simple aspects to consider getting you started: back and torso straight and against the chair, hands to your device, feet on the floor and keeping your eyes level ahead of you. With an overwhelming amount of options, it can be difficult searching for the right chair or piece of equipment, so here are a few things to consider:  
·      Chairs – It should offer an option for height adjustment, a tilting back and provide lumbar support.
·      Monitor – Your monitor should have the ability to tilt and elevate so it’s at eye level, and have contrast and brightness control, which most do.
·      Laptop – Using an external mouse and ergonomic keyboard are beneficial for posture when using for long periods of time. It’s important to take regular breaks and change posture.
·      Headset – If you spend a lot of time on the phone, using a headset will help prevent muscle tension from holding the phone to your ear.  
·      Desk – It should have elevation control, going from a seated to standing desk, with plenty of room to spread out your work to avoid cramping.
Improving ergonomics in the workplace should be viewed as a positive, healthy change. Like most things, it’s more effective when it’s a team effort, providing support and encouragement in promoting this type of environment. Talk to your friends, coworkers, bosses – the more people invested, the more effective it will be. Improving ergonomics can promote safety in the workplace, decrease employee turnover, and improve the quality of productivity. Overall, the best benefit is that you’re ensuring the health and wellbeing of yourself and your co-workers. With all the praise from those who use ergonomics, and with such great return on investment, it seems well worth the effort in exploring it for your workplace. Promoting health and productivity in the workplace should be a constant, not a trend.  

Wednesday, March 8, 2017

High Intensity Interval Training

High Intensity Interval Training, otherwise known as HIIT, is a form of cardiovascular exercise where one engages in short, quick intervals of high intensity and low intensity exercises. This cycle is alternated until the body becomes too exhausted to continue. These sessions are based on what your endurance level is at the time; the first few sessions will pass quickly, but as your endurance rises, so will the duration and intensity of the overall sessions. So really, there’s no specific plan or equation that you must follow when you start your HIIT routine.
A great starting point to gauge your individual level is to think of the ration; 2:1. So, for every minute of high intensity intervals, it’s thirty seconds of low intensity intervals. If you’re not in the best shape or lack endurance, your starting point can be simple. Don’t push yourself too hard from the start and risk burning out. Your starting point can be as easy as sprinting for 40 – 60 seconds, followed by a light jog or fast walk for 20 – 30 seconds. These interval sessions typically last anywhere between 15 – 45 minutes, making HIIT the perfect workout for those with an already full schedule. It’s a great way to maximize your workout with limited time.
HIIT has been shown to help decrease the level of body fat more effectively than the more common workout combination of cardio and weight lifting. This training method varies the output demand on your body, so it becomes difficult for the body to grow accustom to a certain routine which often results in a plateau that can lead you to feel stuck in your progress. But just like all great workout routines, fat loss is a byproduct of increased exercise and a healthy diet. The benefits of HIIT expand further than just weight loss and can provide many improvements in your overall health. Here are five benefits of HIIT, a few of many reasons why your body will thank you! 
Great for heart health. Let’s be honest, it’s quite difficult to reach an anaerobic zone, where you’re breathing is heavy and your heart is pounding. With interval training, you’ll find it easier to push yourself to reach that level because of the short durations. Your heart is a muscle that’s constantly working twenty-four seven; the more you use it, the stronger it gets, and the more effective it becomes in pumping blood throughout the body. By increasing your cardiovascular health and endurance, you effectively help your body fight against cardiovascular disease or metabolic diseases such as; high blood pressure, obesity, coronary artery disease, heart failure and more.
Increase your endurance. Interval training at such a high pace causes your body to adapt at a cellular level. The cellular structure and efficiency of the muscles play a huge role in endurance when performing not just these exercises, but throughout your day to day life. Better endurance allows you longer workouts, more walking, and more stairclimbing, without becoming winded and out of breath. There’s an article in the Journal of Physiology stating that those who embarked on an eight-week interval training plan ended up doubling the length they could bike for while pushing the same pace.
Boost your metabolism. HIIT does a serious number on your metabolism, in a good way. The American College of Sports has said that interval training significantly increases your oxygen consumption in comparison to a regular workout routine. What this does on an internal level, is causes your metabolic rate to increase from about an hour and a half to two hours after a workout. This means it causes your body to continue burning calories at a faster rate for a longer period after a workout. It also helps reduce insulin resistance, allowing your body to better regulate your blood sugar levels. For those that are diabetic and pre-diabetic, this is great because it helps prevent drastic spikes in the sugar levels.
Energy use. Alternating from high intensity to low intensity, the body is forced to learn how to use its energy more efficiently. I’m not just talking about feeling more energized and awake during the day, I’m also talking about the internal environment regulated by your body. Your body will better remove waste from your muscles and blood long after your workout is finished. Your body will better coordinate when and where to use your stored energy, inside and outside of your HIIT sessions.
Easy to do anywhere. One of the best parts of HIIT, is it can be done anywhere. All it requires is you, your body, and your determination – making this training method cost effective, and time-friendly. This is one of the few truly effective exercise routines that can be done at home, helping to avoid travel time to the gym, which is probably crowded anyway.  If you’re constantly traveling for work, or even pleasure, HIIT is the perfect exercise for you to complete in private, no matter where you are.

HIIT is one of the best ways to get your body and life back in shape. The fact that it’s so effective, doesn’t require a lot of time, and can be done anywhere – should be reason enough to at least consider. Am I right? I know finding motivation can be the toughest part in exercising, so being able to roll off your couch a hot mess at the start of your workout should be getting you PUMPED. No pressure of your appearance at the gym, or driving all the way there, just you and your workout. Once you become more comfortable and make some progress, you can switch it up with a visit to the gym or a park. Remember, your training should be combined with eating clean to provide your body with the best foundation to reach the results you not only want, but deserve. Regardless if you’re seasoned or a beginner, HIIT will challenge your body and continuously push you to a better and healthier life.

Wednesday, February 22, 2017

Carpal Tunnel Syndrome

        Have you ever noticed one or both of your hands “going to sleep” on you, particularly at night? Do you ever wake up in the middle of the night because a portion of your hand feels like it has been turned into a pin cushion? Although we weren’t aware at the time, this is how my dad first started experiencing the signs and symptoms of Carpal Tunnel Syndrome, also referred to as CTS. Because the pain grew so slowly, my family and I ignored it. We chalked it up to odd sleeping positions, mainly because he slept mostly on his right side (where his symptoms began), and the pain and tingling weren’t occurring every night. Not thinking anything of it, he simply tried to change how he slept to relieve the tingling, but the symptoms persisted. It wasn’t until years later that we realized he may be suffering from CTS.
            Now, my father is part of the generation that believes if he’s hurt or has trouble working, he would just rub a little dirt in it (not actually, but you catch my drift), and push through the pain. Because he works with his hands day in and out, he is constantly putting strain and repetitive motion in his wrist. This repetitive motion is so common among individuals that there is even a name for it, Repetitive Strain Injury (RSI). My dad’s work requires him to use tools in a repetitive motion; constantly rotating screw drivers, holding on to vibrating machinery, etc., which he has been doing since his teen years. Eventually, he reached the point where he realized that the way he slept wasn’t the problem. Both hands were going numb, he was waking up multiple times in one night, and wearing braces to keep his hand in an ergonomic position…but ultimately, it was when he had to “shake the feeling back” into his hands after driving for only an hour that he realized it was more serious. The more we learned, the clearer it became – my dad had been dealing with CTS for years without a diagnosis. A lot of the time when we think of CTS, we think of it being most common in those who work with their hands, or in labor intensive jobs. But recently, as our generation has become consumed by technology, more people have begun experiencing the same tingling and numbness that my dad experienced. Those who work more frequently with computers – editors, journalists, transcriptionists, etc., seem to be more prone to CTS. Think about it; you’re sitting at a desk, putting in hours of typing to complete a project, or even writing a blog for all your followers. This action is so miniscule that we don’t necessarily think about it, but can be harmful to your functionality.
 Since CTS is one of the most common workplace injuries, I don’t want this to go unnoticed for you like it did for my dad. So, let me give you some information about CTS and ways you can alleviate any numbness or tingling should you ever experience it. The Carpal tunnel is exactly what it sounds like - it is a tunnel formed by the carpal bones in the hand. The tunnel consists of tendons connected to surrounding muscles, and the median nerve, which controls feeling and movement in the first three fingers of the hand. When CTS occurs, it’s due to the median nerve being compressed because of swelling. Several factors can cause this swelling, ranging from a medical condition or pregnancy to repetitive labor, like in my dad’s case. Because of this swelling, the compression renders the median nerve unable to communicate with some of the surrounding muscles in the hand, ultimately causing the numb or tingling sensation that most experience in those three fingers. This compression can also cause weakness of the hand, which is a common symptom experienced by those with CTS.

Now, I’m sure you’re wondering what you can do to relieve the pain if you are experiencing this. Well, traditionally, we automatically think of the ER, going to the doctor for a consultation for surgery or even injections. These treatments are considered invasive and aggressive and are, unfortunately, the most commonly suggested treatments for this condition. However, there is some information that tends to be left out during the suggestion of these treatments. If you choose to receive injections, it means you’ll have to go back over time for more injections, because injections aren’t permanent – they’re temporary. So, this is not a one-time-fix. I want to emphasize that this isn’t treating the problem, it’s masking it.  It removes the pain, but the root of the problem is still there. Often, the symptoms return and are typically worse each time the injection wears off.
Surgery - another commonly recommended treatment. Surgery is meant to remove any irritation of the median nerve as it runs through the carpal tunnel. It consists of cutting the transverse carpal ligament, which crosses over and holds down the nerve and tendons running through the tunnel. While it does provide instant and short-term relief, we often see symptoms return as early as a few years later as the result of scar tissue buildup. Typically, patients choose to continue with more surgery, perpetuating this invasive cycle. As I do with most issues, I recommend a more natural and less invasive way to treat CTS.
Chiropractic is a non-invasive, alternative method to treating CTS, being endorsed by the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and the University of Maryland Medical Center. When CTS is left untreated, permanent damage can occur, leaving part of the hand numb or permanently weakened. A chiropractor can help trace the path of the median nerve from the wrist, all the way through the elbow and shoulder, to the spinal cord where it originates.  This allows your chiropractor to pinpoint the origin of interference, remove it and allow the nerve to operate unhindered, beginning the process of healing. This isn’t an instant process; it does take some time for your body to rid these symptoms. However, in the long run – you will most likely be able to avoid surgery. Now, there are some cases where surgery is necessary, but I always recommend using it as your last resort, because there are many cases where surgery is completely avoidable. If you are experiencing any of these symptoms, I encourage you to visit your chiropractor to learn more about what treatment will be best for you, above all else.

Wednesday, February 15, 2017

Chiropractic and Sports

Have you ever wondered how top athletes can perform at such a high level over the span of their career? A lot of this ability comes from training, dedication, nutrition and what the athletes do with their body. Most athletes are so in tune with their bodies, they can tell you when something feels wrong or off. For them, they want to be performing at one hundred and twenty percent, one hundred percent of the time, especially before and during any physical performance. As the recognition of chiropractic continues to grow, it has become very prevalent in sports medicine, and is often recognized as an important part in the routines of professional athletes. You don’t have to be a professional athlete to find benefits through chiropractic care – athletes at any level, even recreationally, will benefit from regular chiropractic care.

            Many sports require our bodies to be in high demand and to perform at an optimal level. Any fault or irritation of the nervous system, which happens often in contact sports, can result in a decrease of the ability to operate at one hundred percent. These faults or irritations may not even be noticeable at first, but they’re present and most likely affecting the athlete’s performance. If the issues aren’t addressed, then it is likely that more will present themselves, build on one another, and risk the athlete pushing it too far. For the athlete who spent day after day training, pouring their heart and soul into playing the game – this is their worst nightmare. If you’re an athlete and are reading this, you get it.

 Chiropractic helps reverse the stress placed on the body when playing sports. Many amateur and professional athletes have sworn by their chiropractor and the positive effects they have experienced through their care. These athletes have mentioned that they notice a difference in their awareness, strength, agility and flexibility. Tom Brady, Quarterback for the New England Patriots, has been on record saying “Chiropractic just makes you feel so much better. When I walk out of the clinic, I feel like I’m about three inches taller and everything’s in place. And as long as I see the chiropractor, I feel like I’m one step ahead of the game.” I know football has a lot of notoriety and is a high-contact sport - but chiropractic has made a name for itself in more leisure sports, such as golf, as well. One of the youngest winners of the Masters Tournament, Jordan Spieth, mentioned his chiropractor in his acceptance speech of the green jacket. Chiropractic is essential in keeping athletes across the board, all the way from football to golf, performing at their absolute best.

            Chiropractic, along with regular maintenance and preventative care (we’ll get to that later), helps greatly with injuries sustained from sports. As mentioned before, Chiropractic can help improve your mobility, flexibility and more, but it also helps to shorten the healing time of these athletes when they do become injured. Ask any athlete – after recovering from an injury, they’re more than eager to get back into the game and compete with their teammates. When an injury occurs, immediate chiropractic care can help to keep the nervous system free of irritation and regulate blood flow, allowing the body to coordinate the healing process faster and more efficiently. Many of these injuries come in the form of headaches, joint pains and sprains, so it doesn’t necessarily have to be a contact sport – it can just be a sport that puts unbalanced forces on the body, like golf and bowling to name a few.

            Chiropractic is also great in preventative care. When you’re performing at your best, you’ll notice that you can focus better and be more aware in every situation. Your coordination will be functioning at an optimal level, resulting in better form, better stress absorption, and better distribution of focus – just better everything. The power of the athlete is distributed safely, in a manner that doesn’t exceed what the athletes body can handle, which plays into the pain that is so often felt in athletes that they push through to continue playing. Pain is the body’s indicator that something isn’t working properly. Chiropractic is specially tuned to find any misalignments in the spine that are causing the body to malfunction, so to speak, and can return the body to a state of proper functionality; ultimately reducing the pain and helping the athlete to avoid a potential serious or career ending injury.

Do you play a sport? Any sport, at any level, is still a sport and holds the same risk of injury that we see in professional sports. Some could make the argument that those outside of professional sports can be at a higher risk of injury than those professionally. To be honest, the argument doesn’t matter – there is the same risk of injury simply just from playing the sport. Chiropractic care, utilized preventatively, reduces the risk of you getting injured and causing interruptions in your daily life – missing work, school, or special life events.  By keeping your body properly aligned and operating as the fine-tuned machine that it is, it lowers your risk of injury. If you do sustain an injury, Chiropractic will be there to help reverse the damage resulting from the injury. By seeing a Chiropractor, sooner rather than later, you will be back to doing what you love in a shorter amount of time than those who haven’t sought chiropractic care. Even if you are new to Chiropractic, you will notice a drastic decrease in recovery time from an injury compared to recovery without Chiropractic care. Chiropractic care is a safe, non-invasive and drug-free approach to providing relief to the body as a whole. It benefits in preventative care are astronomical in keeping the body performing and functioning at its optimal level.